Trump to Extend Obama Social Media Checks to Chinese Travelers, Reciprocity on the Way?

The tail-end of the Obama administration saw the introduction of *optional* provision of social media account information from nationals of 38 countries under the Visa Waiver Program using an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

The Trump administration is proposing extension of this to the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS), which is required to be used by Chinese nationals that have a 10-year US visa, prior to their arrival in the United States.

This practice is not implemented for the countries you might expect, for instance not the 7 targeted in the recent *not a Muslim ban,* rather for those closest to the US that have engaged in these special travel arrangements.

The proposal notice will be published Tuesday, February 21, starting a 60-day public comment period. The text is already available in the Federal Register here.

Agency Information Collection Activities Electronic Visa Update System

Public comment can be submitted during the period to either of:

(1) Email. Submit comments to: (CBP_PRA@cbp.dhs.gov). The email should include the OMB Control number in the subject line.

(2) Mail. Submit written comments to CBP PRA Officer, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Trade, Regulations and Rulings, Economic Impact Analysis Branch, 10th Floor, 90 K St NE., Washington, DC 20229-1177.

China is hardly a hotbed of US-targeted terror. It is, however, a big power country that takes its public reputation at least as seriously as the US, and its pride is wounded all the easier. See Hurting the Feelings of the Chinese People (伤害中国人民的感情).

China is one of many countries that frequently employ a policy of visa reciprocity. If you have paid huge visa fees in the past to countries like Argentina, Brazil and Chile, you get the idea. ‘Eye for an eye’ and all. Recent good times for US-China relations led to reciprocal 10-year tourist visas between US and China.

If this rule is implemented, China will be tempted to demand social media accounts from US applicants for Chinese visas. Many social media services are blocked in China, while those that function submit to extensive government monitoring.

Obama started it, Trump wants to expand it, who knows if US security will benefit, but we are becoming the authoritarian’s friend, setting the example for data intrusion of private citizens. Those of us Americans who travel should be concerned what risk we are being put at in our future travels by these policies.

We already seem to be entering an era where it becomes standard protection to wipe our phones when crossing borders or returning to the US.

Those with a skeptical view of the US government’s ability to safeguard data should wonder what will happen to people who come to our shores if their data is hacked by their home governments.

Readers, what is your take?

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  • Rita

    Finally a fair topic…its an extension of Obama’s policy. Personally I don’t care this too much. If they decide not to come, that’s not the end of the world. But I believe they will still come

  • What topics have been unfair? If you plan to travel overseas to any affected countries, so far 38 of the most popular destinations for US travelers, now likely extended to China, I believe you should care for what may reciprocally happen to us in arriving those countries.

  • Rita

    I am not crazy about that place. You are. A lot of people are not.

  • Here are the 38 countries already involved under the Obama action https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_Waiver_Program, including UK, Italy and plenty of places a lot of people are crazy about. I am deeply attached to China and also frequently critical of it, like it would be for any country that I would live in so long. The extension to China is one of the first where it could be really scary for reciprocity to start.